WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Ovechkin recorded his 30th career hat trick to speed up his pursuit of Wayne Gretkzy’s goal record, Charlie Lindgren made 31 saves against his first NHL team and the Washington Capitals skated circles around the Montreal Canadiens on the way to a 9-2 rout Saturday.
Ovechkin’s 804th, 805th and 806th career goals put him 88 back of Gretzky’s mark that long seemed unapproachable. He has scored six times in four games to reach 26 this season, past the halfway point to his 10th 50-goal season, which would be one more than the “Great One.”
Lindgren stopped former Canadiens teammate Nick Suzuki on a breakaway among a handful of key stops in winning for the ninth time in his past 10 starts. An undrafted free agent signing by Montreal, Lindgren is unbeaten in two games against the organization he spent his first five professional seasons with.
The Capitals dominated absent a short stretch from late in the first period through five or so minutes of the second. They made the Canadiens look helpless and haphazard in their own zone, and on their seventh goal, multiple Washington players did laps around Montreal defenders before Marcus Johansson scored.
Erik Gustafsson and fourth-liners Garnet Hathaway and Nic Dowd scored before Ovechkin made it 4-1, center Dylan Strome finished for a power-play goal late in the second and Anthony Mantha added a goal. Washington has won 11 of 13 to go from struggling amid injuries to solidly in playoff position.
Gustafsson has six goals and five assists during a Capitals season-best seven-game point streak. Evgeny Kuznetsov, who set up the goals by Gustafsson and Strome, has points in five in a row.
Dowd’s goal poking the puck through Jake Allen’s pads came minutes after son Louie was shown on video screens to celebrate his third birthday.
Wisconsin native and former University of Wisconsin star Cole Caufield scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season for the Canadiens in their fifth consecutive loss. He’s the first Montreal player to reach 20 goals in 37 of fewer games since Martin Rucinsky and Brian Savage in 1995-96.
Allen allowed nine goals on 38 shots for the Canadiens, who have lost eight of nine.
NOTES: Forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel was a healthy scratch for the Capitals. Joe Snively replaced him in the lineup, playing his sixth game of the season and first since Nov. 15. … Defenseman Chris Wideman returned for Montreal to take the spot of injured rookie Kaiden Guhle.
Canadiens: Visit the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
Capitals: Wrap up their three-game homestand Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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